They are everywhere. No self-respecting Italian cafe or coffee bar seems to be without video poker slot machines. Kids find them fascinating, while an increasing number of Italians are losing their shirts of them. Organised crime uses them to launder money.
When did the slot machine invasion of Italy start? During the time Silvio Berlusconi was in power, which may, or may not, come as a surprise.
Italy’s government is supposed to use tax income from these machines to help rebuild earthquake struck cites, but that isn’t happening.
Italy really does seem to be suffering from a serious bout of slot machine addiction. Some do not find this a problem, though – quite the opposite, in fact. Organised crime in Italy loves these lucrative machines.
Not only are these machines in bars, there are slot machine gambling joints springing up all over Milan where live. I know of at least three in the streets close to my house in Milan, and there’s a huge new slot machine gambling joint which has opened in the space once occupied by a car dealer not far from Piazza Firenze.
It is not only Milan which is suffering from slot machine mania, the same phenomena is all over Italy. Some Italians hope to beat the crisis by playing video poker, instead, they are sending their savings down the plug hole.
Slot Machines Ruin Lives
Now, in a bar near me, a small sign has appeared warning video poker players of the dangers of over gambling.
Some bar owners, such as Monica Pavesi, have become so worried about the addiction of their customers to these machines that they have decided to have them removed – despite the not inconsiderable income these slot machines generated.
One Italian politician who ironically, promoted anti-slot machine laws, reputedly gambled away as much as €100,000 in a series of slot machine frenzies, only the money he lost was not his own but most probably came from the public purse.
The Italian city of Bologna went as far as to ban the slot machines. Other mayors around Italy are considering or have done the same.
Government officials have been making a little extra on the side by telling video poker slot machines when official checks are due.
Money Laundering Galore
Someone, though, has been doing rather well out of the misery of others – Italy’s organised crime gangs, otherwise known as the mafia.
For the mafia, and only today in the local edition of Corriere della Sera there was an article on the subject, the video poker machines are manna from heaven.
The mafia uses Italy’s many slot machines to launder its illicit earnings.
Anti-Slot Machine Laws
Laws are supposed to be introduced to curb the spread of Italy’s video poker slot machines, but there spread seems to be unstoppable.
I know for a fact that some of Italy’s parents are very unhappy about these machines as they tend to attract the attention of children who think they are some form of harmless game.
These machines are supposed to be banned from cafes located close to schools. Initially the forbidden zone was 200 meters from schools, now the distance is likely to become 500 meters.
Berlusconi Slotted them In
Italy’s government is supposed to do rather well out of these machines, though whether it receives all the tax income it should do is open to question. Italy’s mafia is not renown for declaring its ill gotten gains to the tax man.
In another bright Berlusconi idea, income from the slot machines was supposed to help fund the reconstruction of earthquake struck areas such as the city of l’Aquila in Abruzzo – yet the city largely remains a sad pile of rubble.
Alarm Bells Ringing
Italy’s gambling addiction is growing, as is the money organised crime is making and laundering. Gambling has always been a safe bet for organised crime, but can be a big problem for society.
Do you live in Italy? Have you noticed all the video poker machines? If so, let me know in a comment.